The first blog by a British prisoner. Variously described as being "obviously extremely intelligent" (Michael Gove MP), "full of shit" (Mark Leach) and a "fully paid up member of the awkward squad" (Parole Board), I try to generate debate around the moral and political nexus that is imprisonment. Imprisoned between ages 14 to 47, released on Licence in August 2012
Monday, April 17, 2017
Drones and Phones
To be fair,
anything involving flying stuff is inherently more interesting than “I threw a
ball stuffed with weed over a wall”. Drones have a whiff of the Mission
Impossible. Basic media clickbait.
And also apparently
catnip to our Ministry of Justice leaders. Drones, they have declared, pose a
real risk to the security of prisons by smuggling in drugs and mobile phones.
Oh, that’s a
lie. You weren’t meant to notice, but even the MOJ figures place the number of
drone incursions to prisons in the dozens. Not hundreds, dozens. Whilst Liz
Truss indulges her Tom Cruise fantasies, drugs and mobiles pour into prisons
and will continue to do so.
is a masterpiece of irrelevancy.
If the problem being addressed is the smuggling of contraband, the starting
point must be – How are drugs and mobiles smuggled into prison? The answer
shapes the policy response. All nice and rational.
Here we sink
into murky waters. There is very patchy data on how and what is smuggled into
prison. Measuring covert illegality is always an interesting criminological
challenge. The MOJ has comprehensive data on what staff find, but this is not
We do know
over 10,000 mobile phones/SIM are found annually. I invite you to check the
weight of mobiles, the carrying capacity of cheap drones…And with under 50
drone incursions a year, any hint that drones have a significant impact on the
supply of mobiles is plain ridiculous. For the Minister of Justice to make this
claim is staggeringly dishonest.
the same mathematical challenge to the MOJ claims. Tens of thousands of drug
users. The weight of drugs. The sparse number of drones. On what we do know,
the idea that drugs delivered by drones has a significant impact is again
plainly absurd. Its physically impossible that drones are doing what Truss
claims they are. This is so obvious that Truss’ statements must either be
deliberate lies, sheer stupidity, or plain incompetence.
the basic question – how does contraband enter prison – we must rely on
deduction and prisoner experience as well as the thin data. An unsatisfactory
basis on which to build a policy, but such difficulties are common in criminal
and their visitors are usually blamed for smuggling. Every public effort HMP
makes against smuggling focuses on prisoners and their visitors. Some glimpse
into what a “domestic visit” entails would inform debate here.
visitors must be in receipt of a permission slip (Visiting Order) and
sufficient identity documents. Personal possessions, sans a few quid to buy
refreshments, are removed and stored. The visitor is then searched, a “rub
down”; essentially, a prolonged indecent assault. Babies and nappies included.
Visitors are then sniffed at by drug dogs, and then scanned or wanded – a metal
Only then do
they enter the Visits Room. To sit on fixed seating opposite their prisoner.
Under constant staff and CCTV surveillance. I’ve been in Visits rooms where
there were as many cameras as tables.
On exit, the
prisoner is then searched. Rubdown, strip, squat, metal detector…
If I have
given you the impression that smuggling contraband in a visits room is
difficult…Its because it is. It can be very difficult indeed. How exactly does
a mobile phone get through this procedure? 10,000 mobile phones?
spread idea that the major route of contraband is via prisoners domestic visits
collapses in the face of the visits security procedures I’ve delineated. They
are so oppressive that as these security procedures were brought in, and
despite the prison population nearly doubling, the number of people visiting
prisoners halved. Prisoners families being the major source of contraband is a
myth that needs to die in order to address the actual problem.
to the security procedures imposed on visitors, prison staff are at best
subject to the occasional random rub-down search. From their colleagues. We
have to end this pretence that prison staff do not pose a massive risk to
security. Drones can carry gramms. Staff can carry ounces.
familiar with the experiences of (ex Gov) John Podmore will share the
frustration at the perpetual refusal of the Prison Service to address staff
corruption. It is a subject on which the MOJ, HMP and POA are in perpetual
simple analysis of the contraband issue reveals that the issue isn’t drones. It
flatly isn’t the problem. Staff corruption is the major source of contraband.
And in focusing on drones and refusing to get to grips with the actual problem,
Truss is being worse than merely ineffective.
on drones and ignoring the actual problem, our Minister Truss is condemning
prisons to a future of rotten staff culture, rampant drug misuse, and
predictably awful reoffending rates.
Minister of Justice, delivering such a future should consign them to political